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Bali? Bring it on!

Bali may have its access challenges, but Daniel Carroll's family is determined to overcome them again and again.

We are a family of four: Daniel, Jodi, Morgan and Sydney. Formerly from Melbourne, we moved to Noosa Heads 13 years ago for a change of lifestyle. After many years of medical intervention for our girls, our experience has taught us to live life to the fullest, take each day as it comes and don’t sweat the small stuff. We are content with our lives; no longer influenced by material possessions, we’ve decided to pare down our life so we can travel more often.

Morgan’s entry to the world was traumatic. Jodi had complications with the pregnancy and, in an emergency, Morgan was delivered at 28 weeks. After many complex issues, including the loss of oxygen, Morgan suffered an intraventricular brain haemorrhage, resulting in hydrocephalus. Consequently, she has multiple disabilities, including spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, intellectual impairment and is legally blind. She requires 24-7 care and lives at home; Jodi is her full-time carer, with support workers assisting with outings and activities.

The school of life

Despite Morgan’s complex needs, she’s social and loves to travel, especially to Bali.

Morgan seated in a Hippocampe chair in front of a Balinese temple
Nothing holds Morgan back from exploring her love of travel, especially in Bali.

For our family, Bali is a destination that captivates and entices us back again and again. The tropical weather, scenery, beautiful Balinese people and Indonesian food all appeal to us. Balinese people are family oriented, and the awareness that it takes a village to raise a child is ever-present in their lives. Having Morgan, this notion is close to our hearts and is why we’ll keep travelling back to Bali.

We firmly believe that travel is the school of life, and Morgan has benefited and grown from her travel experiences. Travel broadens the mind and opens our eyes to different cultures and how other societies coexist.

There’s so much to explore in Bali, and each visit we try to experience something new. Many travellers only see the touristy areas of Bali and miss out on so much. You just have to know where to go – we are born explorers and like to see as much as possible. We have made so many local Balinese friends, and it’s become our second home. Soon we’ll start building our own small wheelchair-accessible villa in the east of Bali.

Challenges abound

We love travelling, but it’s not all carefree beach days. Morgan’s epilepsy and related seizures, as well as difficult behaviours related to her autism and intellectual impairment, can be challenging when travelling. Morgan’s also particular with food, cannot walk unaided, and has hearing sensitivities.   

Like many parts of South East Asia, Bali’s footpaths are often broken or uneven, forcing wheelies onto the road. And, frustratingly, scooters, vehicles and sometimes building materials are on the pavement, blocking access. Steps often lead to the entrances of many shops, cafés and restaurants, but we can overcome these problems by lifting Morgan’s wheelchair; independent wheelchair users may have trouble, as there are few ramps. Similar access issues are found at many attractions across Bali, but where there’s a will there’s a way! 

Morgan seated in Hippocampe chair with Daniel propelling her from behind in Balinese garden
An all-terrain wheelchair is a must for navigating Bali’s tricky terrain.

We purchased a Hippocampe beach and all-terrain wheelchair to help combat these problems. We never use Morgan’s manual chair in Bali anymore as it’s not practical for the problematic terrain. The Hippocampe also allows us to take Morgan to the beach with ease, thanks to its balloon wheels. We now also have a great Balinese friend who doubles as our driver and tour guide. Morgan can transfer from a wheelchair to a vehicle, so we don’t require modified transport for outings.

The best medicine

Thankfully we have never required medical treatment while in Bali. Carrying medication for an emergency is essential, though. During one trip, Morgan had a tonic-clonic seizure in a remote area, but we were able to give her life-saving medication we had travelled with from Australia.

We always pay a higher premium for Morgan’s travel insurance due to her existing medical conditions. On one occasion, she had a hospital admission related to her epilepsy in the 12 months before our trip, which caused a blowout in the insurance premium, raising it to $1000 just for Morgan. We always ensure we list all existing medical conditions – it’s important to do so to ensure your policy is not voided if you do need to claim

Morgan being pushed through water on Balinese beach in Hippocampe chair
Make sure you’ve got your travel insurance in order so you can fully experience Bali without having to worry.

Our family’s tried-and-true Bali travel tips

Our top Bali travel tip is to research all aspects of your trip before you book flights. Finding accessible accommodation can be frustrating as many advertise wheelchair-accessibility but that could be as little as a grab bar in the bathroom. Booking accommodation through popular online sites is particularly risky. We’ve found that talking to the management and careful research is key to making sure the accommodation we book will meet our needs. There are a few truly accessible private villas in Bali – they’re usually built by westerners who understand the requirements of people with disabilities.

If you are travelling with medication, ensure you keep them in their original boxes with labels and take more than necessary in case of travel delays. Due to strict regulations in Bali, it’s important to carry a doctor’s letter outlining your medication requirements. 

Many places are impossible to access with a standard wheelchair; carrying a portable ramp around would undoubtedly help if you can manage it.

There are companies in Bali specialising in wheelchair-accessible tours. Tours are an excellent option for independent wheelchair users to see the island as they are fully supported. Accessible Indonesia and Bali Access Travel are two that we can recommend. They both offer airport transfers and sightseeing tours in an adapted vehicle. 

If you don’t require an adapted vehicle, try to find a driver or tour guide you gel with and speaks your language; this can provide cultural opportunities for you if you can build a relationship and loyalty. 

Try to learn a few Indonesian words, especially greetings, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – Balinese people love it when you make an effort. Be polite and respectful of the locals – remember you are visiting their country.

Personally we’ve found that taking a support worker along on a trip allows us some much-needed time for self-care, and we recommend this to others. We’ve also found Bali One Care helpful in providing personal assistants, nursing care mobility aids and adapted transport.

Morgan in her Hippocampe chair next to a pond with lots of lilipads covering the surface
It’s worth overcoming the obstacles to experience Bali.

Follow our family’s Balinese adventures on Facebook, or Instagram.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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